In sports, everyone is a winner—some people just win better than others. Like the folks who mistake human beings for sled dogs and accuse Dwight Howard of not being alpha enough.
In yesterday's Game 4, slappy Dwight Howard recorded his 22nd foul of the playoffs and logged just 23 minutes on the floor in all, spending the other 25 watching something called Marcin Gortat and the rest of his mates make tidy work of the Bobcats. There is something certainly remarkable about Howard's inability to keep himself on the floor. He has gotten less court time in the postseason on average (26.5 minutes per game) than he did in this year's All-Star Game (27). (In response to a reader who wondered if a player as good as Howard has ever been so hamstrung by foul trouble, TrueHoop drew up this terrifying shortlist.)
That's all worth noting. But it's worth noting too that Dwight Howard's failure to dominate thus far is a basketball problem, not a character flaw, as all those people spreading the lame "Dwight Howard isn't an alpha dog" line seem to think. People like Bill Simmons, who said Howard had an "alpha dog pedigree" but a "sidekick mindset." Or Ken Berger, who yammered about Howard's "lack of alpha maleness." Or the guy at the Orlando Sentinel, who called for Howard to become "the alpha dog, not the tail-wagging, happy-go-lucky puppy." Or the reliably hacky Mike Bianchi, who today resists the urge to use the words "alpha dog" but who seems more than ready to throw Howard in the stocks for the crime of not manfully living up to his superstardom:
There comes a time when Howard must start taking some responsibility for his fouls. You can cry and whine and blame it on the refs all you want, but Howard is the star of this team. He gets paid $85 million to perform. It's his job to figure out how to stay on the floor and play basketball.
Howard is a great player with a narrow skill set that he performs better than just about anyone in the league. Because of his limitations, though, he's also more subject to a coach's clever gameplanning and the whims of playoff officiating — and, apparently, the same sort of dickswinging psychobabble that a decade ago had Al Gore rummaging through a Nordstrom Rack in search of earth-toned suits. Poor guy can't suck now without people knocking him down a few pegs on the taxonomic chart and wondering why he's not first to eat.